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Ovechkin preparing to play in KHL

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Ovechkin preparing to play in KHL

Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin confirmed on Friday that if there is an NHL lockout he will play in the Kontinental Hockey League.

"We'll see what's going to happen," Ovechkin said following an informal practice with teammates at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington. "No one wants to be in a lockout but if there is I'm going to play in the KHL. It's not a surprise. I will go."

The NHL's current Collective Bargaining Agreement is set to expire on Sept. 15 and all indications are that the league's owners will lock out the players at 11:59 p.m. if an agreement is not in place.

There are no talks scheduled between to the two sides, but NHL players are scheduled to gather in New York on Tuesday to discuss their strategy.

Ovechkin said he will not be among the 200-plus players expected to be in New York. He has spent the past week skating with teammates for most of this week and has reported to camp at 232 pounds, about 9 pounds heavier than he ended last year's playoffs.

Add defenseman John Erskine to the collection of Capitals skating daily at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in preparation for the 2012-13 season.

On Friday Erskine joined a group that included forwards Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Ribeiro, Marcus Johansson, Matt Hendricks, Stan Galiev and Mattias Sjogren, defensemen Mike Green, John Carlson and Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Michal Neuvirth.

Because of the limited number of participants, the players have followed full-ice scrimmages with 3-on-3 scrimmages the width of the rink. On Friday the players actually put themselves though a hard skate after the hour-long workout.

Barring a lockout, the Capitals are scheduled to begin rookie camp on Sept. 16, followed by training camp for veterans on Sept. 21.

Erskine, 32, spent most of last season watching games from the press box and is expected to be used as a depth defenseman again this season. Under Bruce Boudreau and Dale Hunter, he suited up for just 28 games, recording no goals, two assists and 51 penalty minutes.

Erskine is entering the final year of a two-year contract that pays him 1.5 million a season. He may start the season seventh on the clubs defensive depth chart, behind Karl Alzner, Carlson, Green, Roman Hamrlik, Orlov and Schultz, and quite possibly Jack Hillen and Cam Schilling.

An avid NASCAR fan, Erskine and Hendricks will be heading to Richmond this weekend for a chance to see a race.

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Capitals prospect report: The chocolate and white is feeling a bit black and blue

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USA Today

Capitals prospect report: The chocolate and white is feeling a bit black and blue

The Hershey Bears won their first game of the season on Tuesday, beating rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton 3-2. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Hershey is now 1-5 on the season and sits in last place in the Atlantic Division.

The Bears missed the playoffs last season meaning a 1-5 start to this season is not sitting well for fans of the storied AHL franchise.

The roster in Hershey looks much improved compared to last season. So why are they struggling and how do they turn things around?

The biggest issue to me is cohesion. Head coach Spencer Carbery is in his first season with the team. In addition, this roster has had a lot of turnover. Caps prospects Shane Gersich, Juuso Ikonen, Axel Jonsson-Fjallby, Max Kammerer, Beck Malenstyn, Garrett Pilon, Brian Pinho, Tobias Geisser and Ilya Samsonov are all making their AHL debuts this season. Other additions such as Michael Sgarbossa, Jayson Megna and Sergei Shumakov makes this roster largely a collection of players who have not played together before. There were going to be growing pains, but the Bears are going to get better as the season goes along.

    Another issue has been injuries.

    Samsonov became just the latest in a long list of players on the shelf due to injury. It was announced on Wednesday that he suffered a lower-body injury and is considered day-to-day. He did not dress for the team’s game that night and Hershey was forced to sign a local goalie, Padraig Carey, to an amateur tryout agreement to serve as the backup to Vitek Vanecek.

    Hershey recalled goalie Parker Milner from the ECHL on Thursday.

    In addition to Samsonov’s injury, Kris Bindulis, Colby Williams, Riley Barber, Ikonen and Shumakov are all dealing with upper-body injuries while Mason Mitchell has a lower-body ailment.

    Other prospect notes:

    • With so many new players, several have reached early career milestones. Pilon (2 assists), Kammerer (3 assists), Malenstyn (1 assist) and Jonsson-Fjallby (1 goal) all recorded their first AHL points over the week. Here’s a look at Jonsson-Fjallby’s goal:
       

    • Jonsson-Fjallby remains in Hershey despite rumors last week of a return to Sweden. Those rumors seem to have originated from Sweden and now it looks like any speculation of Jonsson-Fjallby leaving for his home country have been put to bed. Swedish outlet Expressen spoke with Joakim Eriksson, sports director of Jonsson-Fjallby’s Swedish team Djurgarden. In that report published Monday, Eriksson said (as translated by Google translate), “Axel has a contract with Washington and no other team. It's Axel's decision altogether, but we have said that we have a place available and that's how the situation has been. Everything else has just been media speculation.”
       
    • The blog Russian Machine Never Breaks made a trek out to Hershey and spoke with Ilya Samsonov about his transition to North America and his start in the AHL. “For so long, as you understand, I spent my whole life speaking a different language,” Samsonov said. “So, for now, it’s hard for me to hear what my teammates are saying on the ice. Some things I don’t understand, but I’m trying, and I think I’ve made a step forward in that regard.” Check out the full interview and article here.
       
    • I spoke with Capitals coach Scott Murray recently on Samsonov and the language barrier. “He actually did a really good job this summer,” Murray said. “He stayed in the US and did a really good job bridging that gap and then obviously we’ve made it a point and he’s made it a point that he wants to continually get better at the English language so that we can communicate because when you can communicate it’s way easier to teach, it’s way easier for him to learn and be engaged.”
       
    • Vanecek got his first win of the season on Wednesday and the Penguins made him earn it. He turned aside 40 shots in the effort, a new career-high for him.
       
    • Defenseman Tyler Lewington scored on Sunday against Rockford. It was his first goal since Nov. 11, 2017. You can see the replay of it here:  

    • Riley Sutter was named first star of the game on Saturday in Everett’s win over Kamloops in the WHL. He scored two goals and an assist to help lead Everett to the 7-2 victory.
       

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    Can Tom Wilson change the way he plays?

    Can Tom Wilson change the way he plays?

    On Thursday in New York, Tom Wilson will present his case to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman and argue why he does not deserve the 20-game suspension handed down to him by the Department of Player Safety. Regardless of whether or not Bettman decides to reduce the suspension, there’s a larger question that now hangs over Wilson and one that will determine the direction his career goes from here.

    Can Wilson change his game?

    There is no question whether the hit he delivered to St. Louis Blue forward Oskar Sundqvist which earned him the suspension was illegal. The DoPS’s explanation video lays out why it was a bad hit. This is also Wilson’s fourth suspension in just 105 games meaning the next suspension will be even more severe.

    When you have to think about suspensions of more than 20 games, those are serious. They have serious consequences for both the team and the player.

    Like it or not, Wilson will have to change the way he plays. But can he?

    Can a player who has played a certain way his entire career, a player who made it to the NHL playing the way he does, simply change his game?

    “Every player can add different elements to their game,” Reirden said Tuesday when asked about Wilson. “I think it's a line that needs to be towed with him in regard to he has a physical element that is a difference maker for him and using him at the proper times and in the proper ways.”

    The team is not going to ask him to not be physical and, despite what Caps fans may think, neither will the league. The point is he needs to be smarter about when he is physical and make sure to keep his hits legal. That means playing smarter.

    The hit to Sundqvist was unnecessary. Wilson could have played the stick instead of going for the hit. The fact that it also came in the preseason is significant as well. At that point, he should not even be thinking about delivering a big hit to anyone because it is a meaningless game.

    Against the Pittsburgh Penguins in the playoffs last season, Wilson is headed to the bench for a line change, but turns to deliver a hit to Zach Aston-Reese. That hit ended up breaking Aston-Reese’s jaw and resulted in a three-game suspension for Wilson. He could have simply gone to the bench and the entire situation could have been avoided.

    Wilson absolutely can be a successful player if he plays smarter. He is not on the top line because of his hitting, he is there because he is a good skater with offensive skill who can win board battles with his physical play. The hits are just one aspect of his game, but he is a much more dynamic player than his detractors give him credit for.

    But there’s no denying part of what makes him successful is being a good hitter. Reirden knows that and doesn’t want that aspect to be taken out of Wilson’s game completely.

    “To expect him to go out there and not finish anymore checks is not going to be very effective either,” Reirden said. “We're working towards a good product for him so he can continue to be back in our team. He's such an important piece to what we do here. We want to have him back as quick as we can and then we want to keep him in the lineup so we'll be discussing that further after things are done.”


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